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"Zekk, do you remember the time on Coruscant when we slipped out in the middle of the night and went swimming in the fountain in Dhalbreth Square?"
A distant smile curved the corners of his mouth. "And the glowfish we disturbed made so much light that the New Republic security forces came running after us." He took a deep breath. "Of course I remember."
"I wish we could be like that again, back in those days, without everything that happened... afterward." Before he could comment, Jaina rushed on. "Zekk, if you stay here at the Jedi academy, Uncle Luke can teach you the right way to use the Force. We could have adventures together again, you and I- and Jacen and Lowie and Tenel Ka. We're thinking about going to the Alderaan system to get a gift for my mother's birthday. A memento of her home from the asteroid field there. You could come with us."
"I wish I could just go home..." Zekk murmured thoughtfully.
"When we get back from Alderaan you could start your training. A fresh start."
"Of course, you might not want to build a new lightsaber at first. It might be too painful. You could wait a couple of years for that. I'm sure Uncle Luke would-"
"Jaina," Zekk's voice was firm. "Jaina, look at me." He placed both hands on her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.
She hadn't even realized that she'd been avoiding his gaze. Her brandy-brown eyes swung up to lock with his. Beneath his eyes the dark semicircles were like reflections of inner shadows, of hovering guilt.
"I'm not the same person I was when you knew me before, Jaina. I can't be. Not anymore. And you're not the same person either."
"But you're back now," Jaina objected. "We can start over." She knew the words were wrong even as she said them.
Sad. His eyes looked so sad... For her?
"Maybe you can't understand where I've been... or what I've been. I'm not an innocent anymore. I've known real power and used it. I've killed face-to-face and been proud of it. That's not something I can forget."
Jaina wanted to look away, but his emerald eyes burned with a truth she couldn't escape.
"I can't erase everything and go back to what I was," Zekk said. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Even if it were possible, I'm not sure I'd do it. I can't just pretend that nothing's changed."
Jaina wasn't sure she understood, but she nodded anyway.
"You're right about one thing, though," Zekk said. "This is a new start. For me, and for all of us. I can't go back, but I can go foward."
Jaina felt the threatening sting of tears and blinked them away. "What will you do?" She didn't want him to leave.
"I don't know yet, but I can't stay here. Not at the Jedi academy."
Zekk's hands gripped her shoulders so tightly that Jaina wondered if she'd have bruises. The tension between them was almost unbearable. She could sense his inner torment and his need for healing... for understanding.
Jaina swallowed hard. Zekk was different, and she had no advice or wisdom to give that could help him. He would have to find his own path. She offered the one thing she had left to give him. "Whereever you go, whatever you decide to do... I'll still be your friend, Zekk."
He loosened his grip on her shoulders and smiled at her. A real smile with real strength behind it. "I'd like that." Then a mischievous glint flashed in his eyes. "You know, it's been a long time since we went for a swim together. Of course, there aren't any fountains handy, and no glowfish in the river, but..."
Jaina felt a surge of happiness and relief. "Race you to the water," she said.
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